Category Archives: Africa

2019 SVNP Annual Conference: Youth and Peacebuilding in Africa

. . FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

An announcement from the Wilson Center

A Southern Voices Network for Peacebuilding Conference co-hosted by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Africa Program, the Centre de Recherche et d’Action pour la Paix (CERAP), and Centre Ivoirien de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (CIRES) in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. 


Photo from 2018 conference

Africa is the world’s youngest continent with nearly 60 percent of its estimated 1.3 billion population in 2020 between 0 and 24 years old (UN Population Division). This ‘youth bulge’ will play a major role in shaping Africa’s future. The African Union has made engaging the continent’s youth in mainstream development agendas a priority on Agenda 2063. As Africa’s security landscape has evolved and the nature of conflict has changed, the narrative surrounding youth has often been a negative one framing youth either as threats to peace and stability or as victims lacking agency. A more nuanced and complete understanding is needed to inform effective policies that engage youth in peacebuilding in Africa as well as tap into ongoing peace efforts and innovations by youth.

This conference will take stock of key questions, gaps, challenges, and opportunities regarding youth and peacebuilding in Africa. The conference will also share lessons learned, best practices, and policy options from policymakers, experts, and practitioners on transforming and advancing the agenda for youth and peacebuilding in Africa.

We hope that you will join us for these in-depth, forward-leaning discussions involving leaders from 22 African organizations working on peacebuilding in Africa. Please plan to arrive 15-20 minutes before the start of each session.

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Question related to this article.

Youth initiatives for a culture of peace, How can we ensure they get the attention and funding they deserve?

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Day 1: Tuesday, July 16
[15, Avenue Jean Mermoz, Cocody, Abidjan, ]

8:45 am-10:00 am – Keynote: Youth and Peacebuilding in Africa: Challenges, Gaps, and Opportunities
 
10:30 am-12:00 pm – Assessing the African and International Peacebuilding Architecture: Where and How Do Youth Fit In
 
1:30 pm-3:00pm – Building a Culture of Peace: Educating Youth for Peace
 
3:30 pm-5:00 pm –Youth Unemployment and Peacebuilding in Africa
 
Day 2: Wednesday, July 17
8:45 am-10:00 am – Youth, Gender, and Peacebuilding in Africa
 
10:30 am-12:00 pm – Policy Perspectives on Youth and Peacebuilding in Africa
 
1:30 pm-3:00pm –Youth as Innovators in Peacebuilding: Dialogue with the Next Generation of African Peacebuilders
 
3:30 pm-5:00 pm – Looking Ahead: The Future of Youth and Peacebuilding in Africa
 
About the Southern Voices Network for Peacebuilding:
This conference is held as part of the Wilson Center’s Southern Voices Network for Peacebuilding (SVNP). The SVNP is a continent-wide network of African policy and research organizations that works with the Wilson Center’s Africa Program to bring African knowledge and perspectives to U.S. policy on peacebuilding in Africa. Established in 2011 and supported by the generous financial support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the project provides avenues for African researchers and practitioners to engage with, and exchange analyses and perspectives with U.S., African, and international policymakers in order to develop the most appropriate, cohesive, and inclusive policy frameworks and approaches to achieving sustainable peace and state-building in Africa.

PAYNCoP Gabon learns about the culture of peace

. . FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

Sent to CPNN by Jerry Bibang, National Coordinator of PAYNCoP Gabon.

The National Coordination of the Panafrican Youth Network for the Culture of Peace (PAYNCoP Gabon) took part, on Saturday, June 15, 2019, in a capacity-building workshop on the concept of “culture of peace” organized by the bureau of UNESCO in Gabon representing the United Nations.


Photo © PAYNCoP Gabon

The activity brings together several organizations working for the culture of peace in Gabon including the Panafrican Youth Network for the Culture of Peace, the Pan-African Network of Women for Culture of peace and sustainable development, women of the press for the culture of peace, Unesco clubs, etc.

For the organizers, the aim of this workshop was to provide the civil society organizations with a better understanding of the concept of “culture of peace” and tools for the implementation of activities related to this concept.

In his introduction, Mr. Fazzino, the Representative of UNESCO, welcomed the participation of the various organizations before recalling the goals of this workshop. It will be first to show how the culture of peace contributes to the objectives of sustainable development and how to take action through projects that can be financed. He provided guidance on how to seek funding.

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( Click here for the French original..)

 

Question related to this article.

Will UNESCO once again play a role in the culture of peace?

Youth initiatives for a culture of peace, How can we ensure they get the attention and funding they deserve?

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The first paper, moderated by Dr. Joris Tindy Poaty, PhD in philosophy and expert at UNESCO, focused on the origins of the concept of “culture of peace”, its definition and the international instruments related to this concept. The term was used for the first time at a congress in Yamoussoukro in 1989, while the culture of peace has its source in the constitutive act of the United Nations organization whose mission is to build a peaceful world, he recalled. A full definition of the culture of peace may be found in UN Resolution 52/13 of 15 January 1998.

UN resolutions relating the culture of peace include resolutions 1325 (women, peace and security), 2250 (youth, peace and security), 2419 as well as UNESCO’s recommendation on education for understanding, cooperation and international peace. Other important instruments that contribute to the culture of peace include the Seville Manifesto and the Manifesto 2000.

Participants also received a communication describing the process of project development. It was facilitated by an expert from the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (Unoca). From planning to evaluation, to the implementation of a project, all stages were explained to the participants in order to better equip them in project writing.

Noémie Dalle, a trainee at UNESCO, spoke about funding opportunities for projects related to the culture of peace. She reviewed funding opportunities in UNESCO, the United Nations system and other donors.

For the participants, this workshop responds to several concerns. “We are coming out with common language elements in terms of the culture of peace, but also the appropriate approach to project writing and especially the funding opportunities to launch projects on the ground” concluded Jerry Bibang, the Coordinator of PAYNCoP National Gabon.
 

Celebrating arrests, but still pushing for change, protesters rally in Algeria

…. HUMAN RIGHTS ….

An article by Ulf Laessing in Reuters

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in the Algerian capital for the 17th consecutive Friday, demanding the removal of the ruling elite and prosecution of former officials linked to former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.


Demonstrators carry banners and flags during a protest demanding the removal of the ruling elite and prosecution of former officials linked to former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in Algiers, Algeria June 14, 2019. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina
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After 20 years in power, Bouteflika quit on April 2 under pressure from protesters and the army, but protests have continued.

The demonstrators are pushing for radical change and seeking the departure of senior figures, including politicians and businessmen, who have governed the North African country since independence from France in 1962.

There was no official count, but a Reuters correspondent estimated that the number of people protesting was higher than last Friday. It was still smaller than in the weeks before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in May, however.

At this week’s rally they celebrated the arrest of several former officials and business people linked to Bouteflika on anti-graft charges, demanding more action.

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Questions related to this article:

How effective are mass protest marches?

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“You have built prisons, you will be imprisoned there all,” read one banner held up by protesters marching through central Algiers, scene of mass dissent since February.

On Thursday, the supreme court remanded ex-prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal in custody over graft allegations.

State media also said police had arrested Mourad Eulmi, head of the private firm SOVAC, a partner of Germany’s Volkswagen AG, at a car assembly plant in the western province of Relizane in connection with “corruption cases”. It did not elaborate. Volkswagen declined to comment.

On Wednesday, the supreme court ordered the detention of another former prime minister, Ahmed Ouyahia, for alleged involvement in corruption.

Bouteflika’s youngest brother, Said, and two former intelligence chiefs have also been placed in custody by a military judge for “harming the army’s authority and plotting against state authority”.

Protesters rejected an offer from interim President Abdelkader Bensalah to hold a dialogue with all parties after authorities postponed a presidential election previously planned for July 4. No new date has been set for the vote.

“We need real dialogue”, read one protest banner. Protesters have rejected Bensalah as too close to Bouteflika.

Armed forces chief Lieutenant-General Ahmed Gaed Salah, who has been managing the transition, has called on parties and protesters to meet among themselves to discuss a way out of the crisis.

He also called for the prosecution of officials accused of being corrupt, after which the wave of arrests started.

Agroecology and peasant agriculture to preserve biodiversity

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article from AVSF, Agronomes & Vétérinaires Sans Frontières

On May 6, 2019, in its report on biodiversity, the IPBES [Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services] alerted us about the short-term threat of extinction of nearly 1 million animal and plant species. Agricultural and livestock farming are partly responsible for this disaster, while agroecology and peasant agriculture represent an urgent alternative to preserve biodiversity.

In 2017, we warned of the worrying erosion of agricultural biodiversity: 75% of edible varieties have disappeared in 100 years (FAO). The bulk of human nutrition is based on only 12 plant species and 14 animal species! In the past 10 years, at least one domestic animal breed has disappeared each month (and its genetic characteristics with it), and 20% of the world’s cattle, goats, swine, equine and poultry breeds are at risk of extinction. At cause: the promotion of a productivist agriculture with high capital investment and synthetic inputs, looking for very high yields in the short term. Agroecology under peasant farming conditions is a solution: it relies on agricultural biodiversity, values ​​it while protecting it, and in doing so contributes to the maintenance of biodiversity as a whole.

Agricultural biodiversity is a part of biodiversity that, through agricultural production, contributes to the food of populations as well as the preservation of ecosystems. It is particularly important for maintaining the productivity and resilience of cropping and farming systems in precarious and vulnerable environments. It is this great diversity of plant species and animal breeds adapted to the local environment that guarantees the survival of many peasants from Africa, Asia or Latin America on their farms and pastures, even in difficult climatic conditions and on fragile soils.

In countries of the southern hemisphere, initiatives have multiplied in recent years to upgrade local species and sustainably preserve agricultural biodiversity. These initiatives, often developed at the family farm level, have highlighted the close relationship between food security and biodiversity.

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(Click here for the original French version.)

Question for this article:

What is the relation between movements for food sovereignty and the global movement for a culture of peace?

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Two projects that preserve agricultural biodiversity

In the north of Haiti, small producers are processing quality cocoa, made from old varieties, criollo and trinitario, typical of the Caribbean. Renowned for their finesse and powerful aromas, these beans are mainly intended for high-end chocolate, like the criollo which represents only 5% of world production, and is therefore a sought-after variety. Although chocolatiers are highly demanding, these beans have so far been poorly valued on the world market. Why ? Because these Haitian beans were not fermented, a primordial step that releases the “precursors” of aromas. AVSF has therefore trained producers of FECCANO farmers’ cooperatives in the fermentation techniques of these ancient varieties. Several fermentation, collection and packaging centers were installed for the producers of the 8 cooperatives. A cocoa that is today highly paid on the organic, fair and quality markets in Europe, for the benefit of both producers and biodiversity: grown in the heart of woodland gardens in association with many shade and fruit trees and other crops , cocoa plays an important role not only in food security, but also in maintaining fertility and biodiversity in general.

Throughout West Africa, peasant farming is characterized by the diversity of livestock breeds that it values. These breeds have exceptional adaptive capacities that have earned their durability, as well as resistance to certain parasitic diseases, such as trypanosomiasis, transmitted by tsetse fly and endemic throughout the region. Nowadays, this sustainability is threatened by the disturbing erosion of the diversity of local breeds, increasingly squeezed by introduced breeds for their higher productivity in milk and meat.

In Senegal, AVSF is supporting breeders’ organizations to improve the value of endemic ruminant livestock (the Ndama breed for example) and to demonstrate its competitiveness both in the markets and for the resilience of populations in the face of climatic or economic shocks. This breed is of small size, with good fecundity. Its speed of growth and its satisfactory qualities confer to it undeniable butchery qualities. This valorization is done through the organization of competitions, exhibitions and fairs specific to these species and races.

Through its numerous projects, AVSF has been working with farmers in the South for 40 years to preserve and reclaim agricultural and animal biodiversity and thus ensure their food security and that of the urban populations they feed.

DISCOVER OTHER ACTIONS

Read our background file

(Thank you to Kiki Chauvin, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

PAYNCoP Gabon organizes a conference on the challenges of building peace in Africa

… EDUCATION FOR PEACE …

Sent to CPNN by Jerry Bibang, Coordinator of PAYNCoP Gabon (translation by CPNN)

As part of the celebrations for the 10th anniversary of the death of President Omar Bongo Ondimba, the National Coordination of the Pan-African Youth Network for Peace Culture (PAYNCoP Gabon) organized, on Saturday, June 8, at the House of the United Nations, a conference on the theme: “The new challenges of building peace in Africa.”


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The meeting which brought together mainly the leaders of youth organizations was punctuated by three communications. The first, led by Jerry Bibang, National Coordinator of PAYNCoP Gabon, focused on youth involvement in peace and security issues.

According to the speaker, young people are the most important age group in Africa and Gabon. As a result, they are the main artisans and victims of conflicts and wars. Therefore, it is important for them to be involved at all levels in peace and security issues. For the Coordinator of PAYNCoP Gabon, it is simply a question of implementing Resolution 2250, adopted since 2015 by the United Nations Security Council. This resolution recommends that states involve young people at all levels in matters of peace and security, particularly during prevention, mediation, conflict resolution and post-conflict activities. The involvement of young people is one of the challenges in peacebuilding, concluded the National Coordinator of PAYNCoP Gabon.

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Question for this article:

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Mediation as a tool for nonviolence and culture of peace

For Dr. Jean Delors Biyoghe, the new challenges of peace-building are many and varied. They can be summed up in the good faith of mediators, the fragility of the states, the problem of bad governance, the securisation of cyber-space and many others.
 
Indeed, according to this political scientist, the actors in charge of mediations often have a conflict of interest when resolving crises or conflicts. How can you convince a Head of State to leave power peacefully and democratically if you yourself are undemocratic? the speaker asked. The obsolescence of conflict resolution strategies is also one of the challenges. Instead of building peace, we are witnessing the imposition of peace, the speaker noted. This is the case, for example, in Mali and the Central African Republic.

In addition, the rise of multinationals, coupled with the proliferation of fragile states, is another challenge to peacebuilding. According to the speaker, building peace requires that the social and economic needs of citizens are met. We can not really build peace if the vital needs of the people remain dissatisfied.

The third communication, provided by Theophane Nzame-Biyoghe, focused on the political and diplomatic action of Omar Bongo Ondimba as a champion of peace. The speaker reviewed the various crises and conflicts resolved by the former Head of State, particularly in Angola, the Central African Republic and the Congo … a commitment to peace that has earned him several international awards including the prize “Golden Laurel of Peace”, awarded by the International Peace Trophies Jury, the MANAHAE Peace Prize, awarded by South Korea in recognition of these efforts for the restoration of stability and the resolution of armed conflicts in the Central African subregion. For Theophane Nzame, Omar Bongo Ondimba leaves a legacy that all Gabonese should appropriate, even if peace remains an ideal in perpetual construction.

PAYNCoP Gabon Advocates for Youth Involvement in Peace and Security Issues

. . FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

Sent to CPNN by Jerry Bibang, coordinator of PAYNCoP Gabon (translation by CPNN)

The National Coordination of the Pan-African Youth Network for the Culture of Peace (PAYNCoP Gabon) recently met with a UN delegation, sent by the UN Secretary-General, as part of the strategic review of the UN Regional Office for Peace in Central Africa (UNOCA).

The multidisciplinary team, led by the former Special Representative of the SG of the United Nations, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, came to assess the work done by UNOCA in the sub-region. Among several civil society organizations invited to take part in the assessment, the National Coordinator of the Panafrican Youth Network for Peace Culture took advantage of the opportunity to advocate for youth involvement in peace and security issues.

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Question related to this article.

Youth initiatives for a culture of peace, How can we ensure they get the attention and funding they deserve?

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For Jerry Bibang, youth is the largest and most important social category in the subregion and in the world. Young people are therefore the main artisans and the victims of conflicts and wars. It is therefore necessary to involve these young people, at all levels of process in issues of peace and security, particularly in prevention, mediation, post-conflict activities, etc.

According to the National Coordinator of PAYNCoP Gabon, it is simply a question of implementing Resolution 2250 (youth, peace and security) in accordance with the recommendations of the UN Security Council. Also, the first person in charge of PAYNCoP Gabon invited the UN team to support activities and projects related to the prevention and promotion of the culture of peace. Despite our commitment, our goodwill and our ideas, if we are not supported, our action will remain limited, he said.

The problem of legal recognition of civil society organizations was also highlighted. All the organizations present, in particular, the women’s press network for peace, the Gabon Group Resolution 1325 platform, the Center for Democracy and Human Rights (CDDH-Gabon), the NGO Brainforest and PAYNCoP Gabon unanimously acknowledged that the difficulty of obtaining legal recognition is an obstacle to the mobilization of funds for associations and NGOs. Hence they requested advocacy with the government to make efforts on this issue.

Luanda Biennale: Pan-African Forum for the Culture of Peace

. . FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

An article from UNESCO

In Africa, the concept of the Culture of Peace is enriched by the values, belief systems, traditions, and cultural and artistic forms of expression that contribute to the respect of human rights, cultural diversity, solidarity and the rejection of violence to build democratic societies. The Biennale for the Culture of Peace draws from Pan-African Forum “Sources and Resources for a Culture of Peace” held in Luanda, Angola, in 2013, and aims to expand and sustain the Pan-African Movement for the Culture of Peace and Non-Violence. 

The first edition of the Pan-African Forum for the Culture of Peace, Biennale of Luanda, will be held in the Angolan capital from 18 to 22 September 2019.

This continental initiative is intended to serve as: 

* A global platform for the promotion of cultural diversity and African unity;

* A venue of international and intra-African cultural exchanges;

* A special meeting that brings together – every two years – actors and partners of a Pan-African movement for the prevention of violence and conflict, and the consolidation of peace;

* An opportunity to build sustainable partnerships between governments, civil society, the private sector, the artistic and scientific community, academic institutions, and international organizations. 

The Biennale also aims to give a voice to African women and young people and to facilitate the launch of public awareness campaigns as part of the World Day of Peace (21 September). 

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(Click here for a French version of this article.)

Question related to this article:

Will UNESCO once again play a role in the culture of peace?

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The Biennale is organized around four main axes:

* Forum of Ideas and Youth Forum: two platforms of reflection on the future of Africa, focusing on the dissemination of good practices and solutions for the prevention of crises, and the resolution and attenuation of conflicts;

* Festival of Cultures: promotion of cultural diversity and resilience capacity to conflicts and violence in African countries and the Diaspora;

* Cultures and Sports Alliance for Peace: gathering of international cultural, sport and music events for peace advocacy; 

* Partners’ Alliance for the Culture of Peace in Africa: encouraging the mobilization of resources and partners to support the Biennale and developing on a larger scale projects and initiatives that have proven successful on the African continent. 
 
THE BIENNALE OF LUANDA IN FEW WORDS…

An African encounter for peace:

* A platform for promoting cultural diversity and African unity

* A place conducive to international and intra-African cultural exchanges

* A special meeting that brings together actors and partners of a Pan-African movement for the culture of peace:

* Governments;

* Civil society;

* Artistic and scientific community;

* Private sector;

* International organizations.

5 days every two years in Luanda, capital of Angola, around four poles:

* Forum of ideas / Youth Forum 

* Festival of cultures

* Cultures and Sports Alliance

* Partners’ Alliance

Edition 2019: 18 – 22 September (see Provisional Programme)

PAYNCOP Gabon Presents its Roadmap to the President of the National Assembly

. . FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

Special to CPNN from Jerry Bibang

The National Coordination of the Panafrican Youth Network for the Culture of Peace (PAYNCoP Gabon) recently presented its roadmap to the President of the National Assembly of Gabon.

On the occasion of a hearing granted by Faustin Boukoubi, the President of the institution, the PAYNCoP Gabon presented its vision and the next activities in the framework of the promotion of the culture of peace.

During the meeting, Bautrin Ekouma, the Deputy National Coordinator of PAYNCoP Gabon introduced the group before giving the floor to Kevin Pango, the Institution Relations Officer, who reviewed the network’s missions, which essentially boil down to promoting the culture of peace. This involves dialogue, non-violence, living together, social justice, democracy, etc.

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Question related to this article.

Youth initiatives for a culture of peace, How can we ensure they get the attention and funding they deserve?

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According to the national coordination of PAYNCop Gabon, the roadmap Johanie Mayinou, the Legal Affairs Officer, gave a presentation on the Strategic Action Plan, which focuses on four areas, namely the popularization of PAYNCoP, the promotion of the culture of peace, the popularization of UN Resolution 2250 and empowerment of the youth economy.
 
According to Jerry Bibang, National Coordinator of PAYNCoP Gabon, the implementation of this Action Plan requires the involvement of all: government, institutions, development partners, civil society organizations, journalists, political parties, religious denominations, citizens … Everyone must play his part because we all need to live in peace. Today’s meeting is part of this inclusive approach. “The goal is to encourage the commitment of the National Assembly to promote the culture of peace,” he added.

For Faustin Boukoubi, the President of the National Assembly, the youth approach is commendable because it responds to the vital need of peace. Without peace, no development is possible. He encouraged the PAYNCoP Gabon to promote the culture of peace, and promised the accompaniment of the institution he leads to the extent of available resources.

The Speaker of the National Assembly also invited the Panafrican Youth Network for Peace Culture to collaborate with other youth organizations for greater synergy and social impact.

The meeting with the President of the National Assembly follows meetings with the Director General of Gabon Première (the first national television channel) which had also given its agreement in principle to accompany PAYNCoP Gabon in its missions.

The Elders welcome Ethiopia’s commitment to primary health care and digital innovation

. . FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

An article from The Elders

The Elders met Ethiopia’s State Minister of Health, Dr. Lia Tadesse, on 20 May 2019 to learn more about the country’s efforts to achieve Universal Health Coverage. They also visited the Feres Meda health centre in Addis Ababa to meet patients and hold discussions with Health Extension Workers.


Graça Machel and Ricardo Lagos, with Nane Annan and Health Extension Workers at Feres Meda health centre, Addis Ababa, May 2019.

The delegation applauded Ethiopia’s focus on primary health care as the most effective way of providing essential services to poor and vulnerable populations including women and children. They discussed with the State Minister the need for the health budget to be increased for Ethiopia to move further towards Universal Health Coverage.

They also took the occasion of the visit to welcome the launch in Ethiopia of the Community Health Academy programme pioneered by global health NGO Last Mile Health.

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Questions related to this article:

Where in the world can we find good leadership today?

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The new Community Health Academy programme is partnering with Ministries of Health across the world, to help frontline health workers use digital technology to improve their clinical skills and the overall capacity of health systems. The online community health leadership course  of the Academy, co-created by Ethiopia and other countries, launched last week and has already enrolled over 3,700 learners in more than 150 countries.

Graça Machel, Deputy Chair of The Elders and former Education Minister of Mozambique, said:

Health is a human right, and health workers are human rights champions. I applaud the Ethiopian Government’s commitment to delivering free primary care services at a community level, and urge them to commit further public funds to the health budget to reach this goal. At the same time, I welcome Last Mile Health’s support as an inclusive model of innovation and partnership which I’m sure will yield impressive results in the future.”

The Elders believe that community health workers can play a critical role in helping countries reach UHC and help all people access the healthcare they need without facing financial hardship. They recognised that Ethiopia’s Health Extension Worker programme is a positive example for other countries to follow.

Ricardo Lagos, Elder and former President of Chile, added:

“Community health workers are on the frontline of providing essential services to poor and vulnerable patients in Ethiopia. It was inspiring to see their tireless work in challenging circumstances, and to hear their hopes and plans for the future. The Community Health Academy partnership offers a great opportunity to share digital innovations for health workforce capacity building with these grassroots actors and the health systems leaders who support them.”

The Elders are holding their biannual board meeting in Addis Ababa from 19-22 May.

Liberia: Feminist Voices for Peace

. . WOMEN’S EQUALITY . .

Articles from the Nobel Women’s Initiative and Peace People

From April 30 – May 3, emerging leaders from more than twenty countries came together in Monrovia, Liberia for Claiming Our Space: Emerging Feminist Voices for Peace—a groundbreaking summit co-hosted with Nobel peace laureate, Leymah Gbowee, and the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa. And — spoiler alert — it was awesome!


(Click on image to enlarge).

For a detailed recap of the event, read this blog post from one of the participating emerging leaders, Louise McGowan, who reflects on her experience in Liberia!

Just last week, the Nobel Women’s Initiative along with the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa brought 50 women from over 20 countries together in Monrovia, Liberia to discuss feminism, power, activism and peace. The title of the conference was “Claiming Our Space: Emerging Feminist Voices for Peace” and over three days of multigenerational talking, engaging and sharing, women from North, South, East and West learned from and inspired one another.

On day one of three, the five Nobel Peace Laureates present (Leymah Gbowee, Shirin Ebadi, Jody Wiliams, Rigoberta Menchú Tum and Tawakkol Karman) shared some of their experience and offered advice for young, ‘emerging’ feminist leaders. The overarching theme to kick off the convening was that we (women) are powerful and worthy; that we must claim our space, we must use our voice and we must not ask for permission to do so.

“No one will give you space, you have to claim it yourself.” Leymah Gbowee

Tawakkol raised the important issue of women’s roles in a post-conflict setting. “As you lead the revolution, as you lead the struggle against war, women should be there to fight corruption, to fight injustice and to fight for equality.” Our space is not temporary or negotiable.

“My message for young people is to go forward, raise your voice, say what you want to say and we laureates will support you.”  Shirin Ebadi

Through speeches, panel discussions and youth-led conversations, a number of important topics were broached over the course of the day such as: The Liberian Feminist Peace Movement; Conflict, Migration and the Diaspora; and Gun Violence and Militarisation. One might be forgiven, perhaps, for thinking that this was not the gentlest of introductions, however it should be noted that the group of women attending this conference are the embodiment of power and boldness. This is a group who will not and does not wish to shy away from difficult questions. This space provided an opportunity to explore “what is grounding us, inspiring us, what feminist leadership looks like now and what could it look like in the future?” Mikaela Luttrell-Rowland

As Rigoberta Munchú Tum stated, we must “give ideas to ignite passions of other people so that they can solve problems as well” and this day was about reminding ourselves of the importance of walking your talk (Leymah Gbowee). Many words uttered during these discussions were inspiring but more than that- feeling the strength emanating from the speakers was overwhelming. When Shroq Abdulqader Al-Qasemi spoke of turning pain into power, as a participant I felt the true value of this exchange in my soul.

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Question for this article

Do women have a special role to play in the peace movement?

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On the second day, the convening opened with eloquent spoken word from Neuteyshe Felizor and a mighty key note address from Shirin Ebadi. Following this, a panel tackled ‘decolonising feminist leadership’, unpacking cultural origins of both feminism and leadership in the process and arriving at the conclusion that power is in and of itself a colonial concept. Sometimes we have to look back to move forward. This fed directly into the subsequent youth-led discussions with two of our laureates, addressing Gender-based Violence with Leymah Gbowee and Conflict and Natural Land Resources with Rigoberta Menchú Tum. Both conversations highlighted the importance of alliance-building; tapping into different networks on a local and global scale. This emphasised to me the power of both the global feminist movement and of the individual embracing their strengths and using available resources.

After a well-earned break, the collective reconvened for breakout sessions with young feminists given space to reveal their experiences. Case studies from countries such as South Sudan, Cameroon, Colombia and Northern Ireland were discussed, and lessons learned shared. This afternoon offered an opportunity for comparison, empathy and understanding alongside ideas for strategising in a diverse range of settings. As the day drew to a close, the feeling in the (very well air-conditioned) room was that we were building important alliances in this moment.

The third day was one of joy. The plenary to start was on ‘caring for ourselves and the movement: is it even possible?’ and Felogene Anumo opened the day appropriately: “It’s said you can’t pour from an empty cup. How full are you?”.

The first session’s aim was to deepen our reflection and share knowledge of self and collective care, wellbeing and healing as critical components in our struggles for rights, justice and peace. We heard from Jody Williams and Rigoberta Menchú Tum on how they look after themselves and how they continue to do the work that they do. Jody mentioned how easy it is to feel overwhelmed by urgency and righteous indignation, however with time she has learned the value of granting herself personal time and space. By exposing their own humanity and vulnerability, these powerhouse women let the young people in the room know that it’s ok to not feel strong sometimes.

Rigoberta raised the issue of our own agency; that we manage our “own energy and strength” and that “none of us can survive on goodwill alone”. This struck a chord with many of the feminists in the room who have at times felt the weight of external expectations as well as self-inflicted pressure. We were reminded that we have control over some of our pressures. Yah Parwon also spoke of finding ‘what is relevant’, leading us to think about what serves the individual; yoga might not work for everyone.

After starting the engine with the introductory panel, we shifted into gear with interactive sessions. These offered insight into Reimagining Women, Power and Movement-building; Radical Self-Care; and Intergenerational Trauma. The latter involved a moving exercise for understanding intergenerational trauma in a tangible way. All participants felt the physical weight of previous generation’s experience and hardship. The group discussed practices and rituals for addressing and letting go of trauma as well as welcoming knowledge, heritage and positive energy into our daily lives.

The Final plenary entitled ‘What’s the point of the Revolution if We Can’t Dance’ was a joyful and poignant close to our conference. Aptly, the session began with actual dancing and laughter. The panelists shared ways to centre happiness and pleasure in our movements. A crucial part of ‘claiming our space’ is finding ways to enjoy our space. With little detail spared, this open and honest discussion reaffirmed why each person exists and why each participant was present. Acknowledging that pursuing peace can be painful and hard, Leymah stated: “A brand-new sponge absorbs water and all the dirt that comes with it. We are the sponges and we need to find space to squeeze out.”

In the spirit of self-reflection, learning and solidarity participants were invited to make a commitment to themselves in relation to their own feminist leadership, to multigenerational organising and/or building communities of care. The conference was closed with intentions set and mood high. I for one felt more ‘full’ than I had when it had opened.

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)